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Health in Sequence

New genome center advances health and the human condition

DNA strand illustration

This spring, UTA, in partnership with the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC), ushered in a new era of life and health science discovery in Texas with the opening of the North Texas Genome Center (NTGC). Housed in the new Science & Engineering Innovation & Research building, the NTGC provides massive DNA sequencing capability for regional biotech and medical research.

"The opening of this center is wonderful news for Tarrant County and will bring a real boost to our local economy," says Arlington mayor Jeff Williams. "By bringing together UTA's science, engineering, and nursing expertise with the biomedical research experience of UNTHSC, this center will be able to produce innovative health care solutions with a real positive impact on patients."

The NTGC has already sequenced over 100 genomes. Researchers have taken steps to identify rare genetic variants underlying human diseases, identified genes and patterns of gene expression that may cause brain and nerve regeneration, and identified a link between ethnicity-specific expression of regulatory genes that may be important for personalized cancer treatment.

Integral to the NTGC's work is developing partnerships with industry leaders to advance a unified mission of delivering genomics-based tools to local communities. So far, this has included working with researchers from institutions like UT Southwestern, the University of North Texas, Texas A&M University, and Illumina (the world leader in genome sequencing technology) and partnering with organizations such as Cook Children's, Scottish Rite Hospital, and UNTHSC.

"Going forward, we will develop the NTGC as a hub to connect academic research with clinical medicine to catalyze discovery, innovative treatment, and personalized medicine that is relevant regionally and globally," says Jon Weidanz, founding director of the center. "Our work could break down barriers to personalized and precision medicine related to the acquisition and analysis of big data genomics."

Advancing Knowledge

Marquerite Herzog, a biology doctoral student at UTA, was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to study the molecular genetic basis of changes in behavior seen when an individual loses during an aggressive conflict. For her research, Herzog plans to extract and sequence the RNA of beetles that lose fights and compare it to beetles that have not fought, using an Illumina sequencing platform from the NTGC. "The North Texas Genome Center's high-quality sequencing equipment will allow me to identify the genes and the proteins associated with the ‘loser' effect and recovery," she says. "By studying these genetic components of behavior, I will be able to provide answers not only for the biological sciences, but also potentially for other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, environmental science, resource management, and education."

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